Yesterday, my son got married. We all sat outside on a beautiful autumn day, watching the colored leaves fall like confetti behind him and his bride as they exchanged their vows. Every real-life detail seemed to have emerged from a fairy tale story. It was the kind of day people dream about. I hardly knew where to rest my eyes as I scanned the faces of my children, my family, my friends. I was completely overwhelmed by joy.
Yet in the midst of it all, I had the fleeting thought that this could have been a very different kind of day. Two years ago at this time, I wanted to end my life. My mind and my heart were so full of darkness and despair, I could not envision how anything would ever be better…or different.
There’s been a lot of press lately about suicide and suicide prevention. Probably every one of us has been touched by it in some way or other, and I suspect more of us have wrestled with it personally than most would even guess. You might think that it’s odd to connect this awful topic with such a joy-filled event like my child’s wedding, but I think it’s actually very appropriate. Because I believe it’s in times of joy that our perspective on life is accurate and true. And it’s in these moments of complete clarity that we need to speak the truth out.
I can’t speak on behalf of every person who has contemplated, attempted, or committed suicide. But I can say from my own experience that being in that dark place is a complete loss of perspective. It’s a powerful, deceptive force that is extremely difficult to overcome. You feel isolated, alone, and trapped. Like all you want is just to end the crushing pain and blackness. You are not able to grasp your worth to those that love you–or even believe you are loved at all. You cannot hang onto any sliver of hope, or any prospect of joy.
And that’s where I was two years ago. I did not and could not envision a day like yesterday. I shudder to think of the pall over my son’s wedding day if I had carried out my plan. Of the pain and emptiness that would linger and attach itself to every person I love and each happy occasion I should have attended.
I would have missed my son’s face as he first laid eyes on the woman he loves.
I would have missed seeing my two younger daughters in their first wedding, walking down the aisle like woodland princesses.
The family photos.
The silly moves on the dance floor.
Our evening with friends and family who didn’t want to stop celebrating just because the wedding was over.
The sweet, tearful goodbyes at the end of the day.
And, I would have missed all of the joyful moments that led up to this mountain-top kind of a day.
Because I couldn’t see the joy that was coming, I could have missed it all. Because I didn’t have perspective, I could have missed knowing the truth.
The truth that life will get better if you get help.
That as much as you think you know it’ll ‘always be this way’, you do not know how dramatically life can take a turn for the better.
That the depths you’re in now will pale in comparison to the heights that will come.
The truth that your life has impact, value, and meaning more than you can possibly know.
That the greatest stories ever told are of those that overcome.
And your life story can be one of them.
In Psalm 30, David tells us that though “weeping may last through the night, joy will come with the morning.” Though I’m no biblical scholar, I’m sure he was not speaking in the literal sense only. The point I believe he’s making is that joy is promised us, as certain as we can know that the sun will rise each morning. So many of us go through life believing nothing is promised, but again, this isn’t the truth.
You just have to pay attention to who is doing the promising.
Life is hard, and that is the truth. There is more suffering and injustice in this world than we can make sense out of, and when the darkness comes, it can feel impossible to get your bearings and know what is what. That’s one of the reasons Jesus is called “the Light of the World.” He illuminates what is true and good and beautiful and joyful and hopeful. As the source of all those things, his presence brings accurate perspective. Likewise and for the same reasons, we are to be lights in the darkness ourselves.
And this is where I’m coming from–right here, right now. I’ve lived through darkness and I’ve seen the light. I’m telling you, there is hope.
And freedom. Victory. Even joy.
They are available to you and they will come…but you will only get to see those things if you hang in there. Please believe me, they are worth every effort and struggle to get there.
Let Jesus shine his light into your darkness and bring you a true perspective.
Reach out–even to someone you don’t know–and find someone who carries that light.
Hang in there until you find them, hang in there until you get to the other side of the darkness (and you will).
Because whatever you are facing–
no matter what you are going through–
joy is coming.
Don’t miss it by not being there.